The Aln Valley Railway: A Northumberland railway revival

50 years ago, on January 27 1968 the Alnmouth to Alnwick branch line in rural Northumberland closed to passengers. Trevor Gregg reflects on that final day, the history of the line and upon the superb efforts of the Aln Valley Railway Society to resurrect the line.

In 1844 a rail route linking London to Tyneside was opened and at the same time the Edinburgh-based North British Railway Company submitted plans to build a railway from Edinburgh to Berwick. The Newcastle and Berwick Railway Company was formed with the intention of bridging the remaining gap between Newcastle and Berwick enabling rail passengers to then travel from London to Edinburgh.

Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0T Richboro at Lionheart station with a steam passenger shuttle on May 27, 2017.

The Newcastle and Berwick Railway Company had the backing from the ‘Railway King’, George Hudson, together with technical support from George Stephenson. The plans were submitted to Parliament for the construction of this main line together with a number of branch lines.

The request for these branch lines had resulted from pressure from local traders such as those in Alnwick and those in Kelso who saw the potential for increased trade which these connecting rail links could bring.

Final link

Royal Assent was given for the construction of the main line to Berwick in 1845 together with a branch line from Tweedmouth to Kelso. A branch line to Alnwick was given Royal Assent a year later, however, the local landowner, the Duke of Northumberland, insisted that the route of the railway could not come anywhere near his stately home of Alnwick Castle.

LNER V2 2-6-2 No. 60836 arrives at Alnmouth on the 4.32pm from Alnwick to meet the 2.25pm Edinburgh to Newcastle stopping train on May 30, 1966.

Construction work on the main line started almost immediately and the Newcastle to Berwick Railway opened the first section from a junction at Heaton, on its existing line from Newcastle to North Shields, to as far north as Morpeth on March 1, 1847.

A section from Chathill to Tweedmouth was opened on March 29, 1847 and the final link between Morpeth and Chathill on July 1, 1847. In August 1847, the Newcastle and Berwick Railway merged with the York and Newcastle Railway to create the York, Newcastle and Berwick Railway, and it was this company which then bridged the gap between Tweedmouth and Berwick with Stephenson’s magnificent Royal Border Bridge which was opened by Queen Victoria on August 29, 1850

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